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Daily News Blog

10
Dec

EPA Gives Go-Ahead for Mass Poisoning of Fox, Coyote, and other Wildlife Predators

(Beyond Pesticides, December 10, 2019) Thousands of fox, coyote, and other carnivores will continue to be poisoned to death by hydrogen cyanide after the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) re-approved the use of M-44 “cyanide bombs” earlier this month. Cyanide bombs are essentially small, poison-filled land mines baited with food and placed on rural land with the intent of killing predators that prey on grazing livestock.  “EPA is blatantly ignoring its fundamental duty to protect the public, our pets and native wildlife from the cruel, lethal impacts of cyanide bombs lurking on our public lands,” said Kelly Nokes, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC). “We will continue to hold our federal government accountable to the law, and will continue our fight for a ban on M-44s once and for all.”

After denying a petition to ban the products last year, the agency delayed a decision to reregister M-44s in response to over 20,000 public comments, 99.9% of which opposed renewal, according to an analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity and WELC. Despite overwhelming public opposition, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is renewing the products with only minor changes to the labels that govern their use.

The agency will now prohibit use within a 600 ft buffer around homes, unless written permission is given by a landowner. The prior buffer of 100 ft. around public trails and paths will now be increased to 300 ft. And the agency will now require two, rather than one, warning signs where the products are located.

These restrictions are in the context of a product that temporarily blinded a child, killed three family dogs, and lead to the non-target death of a wolf all within the same year (2017). According to advocates, EPA is following the same otiose approach it has followed with countless other highly hazardous pest-control materials, including bug bombs and bee-toxic pesticides; when confronted with major problems, the agency decides to make minor label changes.  

“Tightening up use restrictions is turning a blind eye to the reality of M-44s,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. “In my 25 years working with M-44 victims I’ve learned that Wildlife Services’ agents frequently do not follow the use restrictions. And warning signs will not prevent more dogs, wild animals and potentially children from being killed. They cannot read them. M-44s are a safety menace and must be banned.”

Any animal that triggers a cyanide bomb is coated with sodium cyanide. After the material makes contact with saliva, it turns in to hydrogen cyanide gas, which quickly, but painfully, kills its victim.

As far back as 2007, Beyond Pesticides joined with conservation and wildlife organizations to oppose the indiscriminate poisoning of predators by M-44s and another highly hazardous wildlife killer known as compound 1080, containing the chemical sodium fluoroacetate.  According to Wildlife Services, M-44s killed 13,232 animals in 2017; most were coyotes and foxes, but more than 200 were nontarget animals (a wolf, pet dogs, opossums, raccoons, ravens, and skunks). According to the Sacramento Bee, 18 Wildlife Services employees (and several other people) were exposed to cyanide by M-44s from 1987 through 2012, and during the 2000–2012 period, the devices killed more than 1,100 dogs. National Geographic further reports that of 76,963 coyotes killed in 2016 for livestock protection, 12,511 were felled with M-44s, and that Wildlife Services spends more than $120 million a year killing animals deemed “nuisances” to humans.

Killing predators to protect livestock doesn’t work, for many reasons. There is no way to be sure the predator targeted is one that has killed livestock. And baiting can have the unintended effect of attracting additional predators to an area.  

Predator poisons targeting species like coyotes are also highly unlikely to be effective in either the long- or short-term. Indiscriminate deaths disrupt coyote population ecology; killing individual pack members can break up a coyote pack, leading to females increasing their breeding with other males, and potentially drawing more animals into a region. Not only are non-lethal methods of deterrence the only truly effective means of predator management, predators are critically important to healthy ecosystem functioning, and their absence in a region can cause unanticipated and cascading harm to a landscape.

There is a bi-partisan measure in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2019, introduced by Rep Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL), that would eliminate the use cyanide bombs and compound 1080. Contact your Congressmember today to urge support for the passage of that Act. For more information on the dangers pesticides pose to predators and other wild animals, see Beyond Pesticides’ Wildlife program page.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

Source: EPA press release, Center for Biological Diversity press release

 

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4 Responses to “EPA Gives Go-Ahead for Mass Poisoning of Fox, Coyote, and other Wildlife Predators”

  1. 1
    Shirley Basisra Says:

    This is outrageous!! The EPA seems to get totally unstrung over the smallest thing—I have been a recipient of their many rules—-but putting off very toxic bombs to have animals die a terrible death—is OKAY??? I don’t think so. Where is the sensible reasoning in this tactic?? Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2019 is certainly necessary if the EPA can’t be logical on the subject themselves.
    Knowing what I know about the EPA—-this procedure they are advocating is truly obscene and INSANE.

  2. 2
    Darcy Allen Says:

    This practice is ridiculous! Allowing hunting on the overpopulated species I can see, but blindly killing anything that comes into contact with the poison is ludicrous. Wildlife, pets, children cannot read the warnings!

  3. 3
    Eilene Moore Says:

    STOP POISONING OUR WILD ANIMALS. NOW! PLEASE

  4. 4
    David Hobbs Says:

    Additionally, the removal of predators allows their prey to spiral out of control unchecked, creating ecosystem imbalance, and a ripple effect will occur as the food sources of lesser wildlife become threatened.

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